I remember reading some comments a week ago along the lines of wait until this team goes west. Well, they just finished their first West Coast swing at 5-1. No truth to the rumor that the Cubs are trying to move to the AL West after starting out 7-2 against the division. Certainly, this April looked like there were multiple ways things could go terribly. One of them was a number of games against western teams and the chance of weather issues and having to find odd times for makeup games in season. That didn’t happen. And unless the Dodgers up a full can of whoop-ass on the Cubs at Wrigley Field this long weekend, things didn’t go bad on-field either.
I have to admit to largely feeling bad for the A’s over how this series went. I don’t know how good the Cubs are and I don’t feel comfortable trying to compare notes on how badly the Rays beat them here in Tampa. Crushing a team is crushing a team, and not judged by order of magnitude. Both the Cubs and Rays have a very long way to go and a lot can happen. But both are also looking like teams heading in the right direction.
The A’s on the other hand. Their cupboard is pretty empty. They are a team largely built on has-beens and some never-really-weres. I didn’t get to see the game. It sounded like their young pitching prospect fared well. But even if he busts out as a Rookie of the Year candidate, it is hard for one pitcher to carry a team.
The Cubs did what they could do. You can only beat the team in front of you. They had no letdown after a very good series against the Dodgers. It’s pretty hard to assume even a five win road trip two time zones away. So I’m going to lose no sleep at all over the one that got away and I’m not going to cringe if the next high leverage inning sees Michael Fulmer on the mound. This team will be better if Fulmer can be a key contributor. I’d say the same about Eric Hosmer. I have no issues with the Cubs giving them a decent shot to show they can do that.
There is real talent on the Iowa team and more than a few interesting people in Tennessee. Even beyond the two names that have the most recognition around the Wrigley faithful, there are others that you don’t have to squint too hard to see contributing to the next really good Cubs run. It’s going to be real interesting to see what happens if the Cubs are on pace for an 85-90 win season come June. They have a plethora of pieces that would make for interesting trades. The question is, do you want to stay set up for waves and waves? Or do you prefer to cash in your chips and try to win now.
Tomorrow is never guaranteed and neither is next year. There will be a lot of temptation if this team can keep rolling. Once again this organization has put together a talented group that seem to be guys you can feel comfortable rooting for. Some of you who lost faith probably should be apologizing for not believing in this organization and the sweeping changes over the last decade. To be sure, there were some clunkers in there. But from the day Theo Epstein was hired, this organization has been top tier at finding talent.
There are some signs now that they are getting better at developing talent once they’ve acquired it. That was a spot that they had lagged some of the perennial contenders like the Yankees, Dodgers and Cardinals. Those organizations aren’t bashful at spending money. But they are also very good at developing talent that they either use internally or externally in trading for key pieces to fill their own holes.
It is so much fun looking forward to Cubs baseball with excitement rather than dread.
Let’s look at three key performances from Wednesday’s win.
- WPA can be a cruel mistress. I’ve got Justin Steele in the top spot. I’m not going to adjust my evaluation for quality of opponent. Two runs, one earned over six? Yes please. Four hits, two walks a hit batter. Slightly less dominant than he’s been. But that line is going to win most times.
- Nico Hoerner and three hits, including a double. It’s best not to draw conclusions off of 17 games. I said often last year that Nico was an ascending star. If the next 70-80 games look anything like these 17, Nico’s heading to an All-Star game.
- Nick Madrigal reached three times in his five plate appearances. Two singles and a walk for him. He did get involved with the scoring with a pair of RBI. Nick is finding ways to contribute off of the bench as a part time player.
Game 17, April 19: Cubs 12, at A’s 2 (11-6)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Dansby Swanson (.181). 0-2, 3BB, 3R
- Hero: Ian Happ (.151). 2-4, 2-2B, BB, RBI, 2R, K
- Sidekick: Patrick Wisdom (.125). 1-4, 3B, BB, 2RBI, R, 2K
- Billy Goat: Luis Torrens (-.059). 1-3, 2B, 2RBI, K
- Goat: Edwin Rios (-.045). 0-2, K
- Kid: Justin Steele (-.028). 6IP, 25 batters, 4H, 2BB, 2R (ER), 5K, HBP (W 3-0)
WPA Play of the Game: There was a runner on first and no outs, the A’s trailing by a run in the fifth when Jordan Diaz doubled scoring the tying run. (.201)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Patrick Wisdom batted with runners on the corners and the Cubs up a run in the sixth when he tripled, driving in two. (.155)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Nico Hoerner (3-5, 2B)
Nick Madrigal (2-4, BB, 2RBI)
Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
Yesterday’s Winner: Marcus Stroman (Superhero is 11-5)
Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 5/Bottom 5)
The award is named for Anthony Rizzo, who finished first in this category three of the first four years it was in existence and four times overall. He also recorded the highest season total ever at +65.5. The point scale is three points for a Superhero down to negative three points for a Billy Goat.
- Marcus Stroman +11
- Keegan Thompson/Justin Steele +7
- Patrick Wisdom +6.5
- Mark Leiter, Jr./Dansby Swanson +4.5
- Cody Bellinger -4
- Julian Merryweather -4.5
- Michael Fulmer -5
- Trey Mancini -7
- Yan Gomes -8
Luis Torrens is the 28th Cub to appear in Heroes and Goats already this year. Recently recalled from the injured list, Brandon Hughes is the only player to appear for the Cubs but not H&G.
Up Next: A rematch with the Dodgers, who will be trying to avenge their loss of two of three to the Cubs in Los Angeles last weekend. The two teams will collide for four games at Wrigley this extended weekend. If you had the Cubs heading into this series at 11-6 and the Dodgers at 9-10, consider a career as a prognosticator.
Jameson Taillon (0-2, 4.50, 14 IP) will take a fourth shot at earning his first win as a Cub. He threw five scoreless last weekend against the Dodgers. I was not aware that Jameson was a number two overall pick or that he was born in Lakeland, Florida, a town less than an hour from me and the spring training home of the Tigers.
Michael Grove (0-1, 9.00, 13 IP) will start for the Dodgers in a full rematch from an April 15 game the Cubs ended up losing 2-1. Grove’s stats are horribly skewed by one awful start at Arizona on April 9. Regardless, he’s coming off of a very strong start against the Cubs last Saturday. Grove was the 68th overall pick by the Dodgers (second round) in 2018. He’s got just 49⅓ innings of major league experience.